Mar 13, 2012

Johnny 5 Need More Input

So if my plan goes as I expect, I should have a bunch more time pretty soon to get back into writing and talking about animation... so that basically means more time for watering the blog, more time for personal work, and more chances to create stuff for the educational community. 

I have been thinking for a long time now about creating an instructional DVD
training course for intermediate/advanced level animators. I have watched a whole bunch of these kinds of DVDs over the years, on different topics, and I have a good understanding of what makes these things useful... but most importantly I just know I could create a really good one for animation!

My main goal would be to clarify a number of issues that many training DVDs seem to gloss over; most importantly the process of how you actually generate ideas that play well on screen, and how to actually turn those ideas into structured animation. I would also like to explain a properly detailed insight into how to actually take a shot through blocking, with some different approaches and methodologies behind blocking techniques. The blocking aspect is a key thing for me, as I found it one of the hardest things to learn how to do, but once you master it, improves your ability as an animator in immeasurable ways.

I would love to animate a medium length shot, but record the whole process in its entirety from start to final, with no "so earlier I finished up this part" sections. Its always those edited out parts that seem to contain all the secrets! I want to show the real blood and guts of how a shot gets finished, including all the "that looks horrible" bits and how a professional animator would actually work through and solve those exact kind of problems.

Please comment below with the kind of things you would like to see covered in a training DVD set. Ask yourself these kind of things:

  • "If I could get an animator to just sit down and explain something to me, what would it be?"
  • "What seems like a stupid question, but I just can't figure it out myself?"
  • "What was really annoying last time I did some animation training, because the instructor just didn't explain it properly, or just glossed right over it?"
  • "What kind of format would be good to watch and learn from on a DVD?"

If I don't get many comments I'll just have to figure it all out myself, but I would really appreciate input from you.


Unknown said...

Amazing idea, I'd love to see something like this from you - especially from the idea generating angle.
Most lecture DVDs start out with already laid out ideas and thoughts on the shot, and while the lecturer might elaborate the reasons behind his choices, he rarely tells you how he came up with them in the first place.

Lukas Niklaus said...

Hey Cameron
So awesome youre back!
I think the process of generating ideas that play well is an amazing topic!
Hand in hand with this also goes taking reference, from what ever source and instead of just copying what you see and think is a good idea, creating something new with it.
I think how to creatively use reference is something many people (especially myself) could really use some help with.

Ricardo said...

Hey Cameron!

Great idea that DVD! For me, there are two things I'd like to know:

1. How to properly transition from stepped to spline after blocking (my lack of knowledge on that subject is the main reason I do my blocking on spline).
2. How to polish a scene. Add texture and secondary animation, how to "keep alive" a character when not moving.

If possible, it would be cool if you show your work on the graph editor too.

Again, great idea! Looking forward to it!

- Tim Sormin - said...

Check out the videos on for a good example of someone who actually explains the entire process instead of glossing over the hard parts and addresses specific questions or problems people have. Then make your own DVD because I'm a fan of your work and I'd love to see how YOU approach the challenges of animation.


Many thanks for offering to put together such a DVD. Your earlier posts have been a huge hit around my studio. The multiple blocking techniques would be great to see.

One thing I've admired about your animation is your ability to streamline parts of your process by identifying spline patterns in the big perspective for your characters. Anything you could do to help me create strong workflow solutions and get that "big picture mode" would be appreciated.

Thanks again, Cheers!

Mike Feil said...

Hey Cameron,

Sound awesome! The best animation tutorials I have seen so far are by Ken Fountain for ianimate, I thought they were fantastic! Especially his planning techniques and methodologies. I would love to see an instructional on doing a heavy body mechanics shot that isn't really possible for someone to do in reality and how you would approach that. Cheers!

Mohammad said...

Thanks Cameron its such a great Idea!!! it will be great to talk about how you approach action shots and how you work the timing and the force/energy and other aspects of it. Can't wait!!!

Dhaval Soni said...

Hi Cameron... You have been phenomenal in sharing your ideas and coolness, and have been a major inspiration for me, not just because of your work, but also your journey from Canada to ILM to Dreamworks. Pretty much starting to play your story myself now. Thanks for the awesomeness.

Have always wondered when exactly do you start loosening things out. I've found myself block out my scene and then start tweaking it as I go along and then apply the autoTangent script by Michael Comet and there it is. Don't exactly know when and where to start building details into the shot, and what exactly comprises of details...

Could you provide some more details on the DVD too, as when do you plan to release it approximately, the pricing, pre-order ?

thinkingpoly said...

Hi Cameron
Awesome idea!I'm always a big fan of your work!Here are things I want to learn from you:
1 blocking technique!
2 rhythm and texture in animation
3 acting choise

Vibeke said...

Hello Cameron.
You making an instructional DVD would be really great! I would love to see how you come up with great ideas and what you focus the most on in the beginning stages of a shot. How you sort through your different ideas and why you choose certain poses, gestures and secondary actions over others. Whatever you do I am looking forward to it!

Iestyn Roberts said...

How incredibly fantastic! Great to see you back Cam, and I'm really looking forward seeing what material you come up with.

Along with what the folks are saying here, I'd love to see what steps you'd take on animating a character with a prop, setting constraints, holding the prop, putting the prop down, etc etc. I've only recently understood them, (thanks to the awesome tutorials of Adam Bradford) but I'd love to see how you'd go about using them.

Looking forward to it!

India said...

This sounds amazing..

I'd love to know how you optimize your blocking for when you switch the curves that it doesn't lose all that fresh nice timing you had to start with.

Great idea, can't wait!

India said...

This sounds great..

I'd love to know how you optimise your blocking, so that when you switch your curves, you don't loose all that lovely timing you thought you had.

Can't wait for the DVDs!

SEB said...

Hi Cameron!!!

I'm so glad you came back with a lot of power. I can't wait for this DVD, I'm sure it will be worth every single penny!

1) appealing poses and subtext in scene, extra polishing phase, how to develop your eye for timing and texture
2) here I can repeat Ricardo ... same question here
3) some instructors can't explain properly ...
4) quicktime (you can frame it nicely)

Can't wait, all the best and good luck with it!

Regis Le Roy said...

excellent idea, a shot from A to Z would be cool. its like looking over the shoulder.

Fes said...

I've heard that use video reference heavily to block. Love to see some of that workflow as well as overall workflow, specially for identifying performance beats and of course, polishing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an awesome idea, would def check it out.

the main thing that I would love to see covered that I struggle with is how to keep that magic that you often lose from a block when going into splining, even from a detailed block.

AnimatingMyLife said...

Hell Yeah......... Generating Ideas for the shot..... and how you approach lip sync and facial....animation ....

I am with Ricardo

1. How to properly transition from stepped to spline after blocking (my lack of knowledge on that subject is the main reason I do my blocking on spline).
2. How to polish a scene. Add texture and secondary animation, how to "keep alive" a character when not moving.

Joaquin Romero said...

Great Idea......
Animators that are just starting are intimated by the graph editor. I would like to someday master the G.E. With emphasis on ease-in, ease-out, fast-out, overshoot and anticipation and how to effectively use these types of splines.

Format: I like QuickTime!

Alaa Taleb said...

Awesome Cameron
intermediate/advanced level that such a great idea .. most of the DVDs are for beginners and of there is for advanced sure you will find the cuts in the most important part.

please go ahead do your magic we trust you :)

Unknown said...

Wow, I'm so looking forward to this one Cameron! The generating ideas part is a huge plus. I feel coming up with acting ideas is relatively manageable since you can draw from real life, movies or other sources. But what about coming up with something for a fight sequence between a mutated space snail and a giant battle squid? That's a completely different story.
I'd love to see a quick overview of your computer and maya (or other software) setup: Window arrangements, what plugins do you use and more importantly, how do they improve your workflow? I'm curious about this not from a tech point of view, but rather to understand your priorities when setting up your workspace. Just like a cook sets up the kitchen before preparing his 5 star menu.

michaelamos said...

Hey Cameron!

A good buddy of mine who works with you, Ron Pucherelli keeps telling me how amazing you are at video reference and your process. I would love to see your approach to this. How you get into the character and find those extra little details that really sell the personality.

I also totally agree with the - heres the stuff I did earlier bit. That section that is not shown is so annoying!

It would also be great to see you include how you make Director's revisions or changes to the shot, especially after it has moved on into the spline or polish pass.

Really looking forward these DVD's. Make them fast!!

Patrick Byran said...

Hey Cameron, GREAT idea. Main things I think should be addressed are :
:Quadruped workflow, walk cycles
:Where to draw the line with overlap in head/chest
:What to do with lips when not talking/in between lines

Kevin Sanchez said...

Hi Sir Cameron, I'm a fan of yours and I learned a lot in your blog.. :)

like what others says.. I want to know how you approach your animation scenes,
specially the blocking to spline part. How would I know, if my blocking is ready to be spline that it wont lose the timing that I've done.

and I think it would be nice if its more on action body mechanics, like a fight scene. because Ken Fountain and Jamaal Bradley already released an awesome acting tutorial..

and last thing, if you can include the project files like "firstBlocking.mb" "puttingBreakdowns.mb" "splining.mb" "polishing.mb" etc.
so we can browse clearly how you manage your keys, grapheditor etc.

Good luck sir, can't wait for it.. more power..

Anonymous said...

Would be great if it was about animation and not "Here are tips for adjusting curves in Maya!"

Those of us who still do 2D are becoming more and more limited as all the tutorials being made these days aren't so much animation based as they are 3D animation based and all the technical aspects of it.

Cameron Fielding said...

Thanks so much to everyone who suggested guys are awesome and I have a lot to go on here. I`m seeing a bunch of common themes from what you are all saying, which is great.

Some of you have asked about pricing or pre-ordering.. right now this will have to remain undecided as I am not sure really how long it would take to generate the content, but my aim is to make the dvd pack free. all I would ask would be small payment of something like maybe 5 or 6 dollars to cover the actual cost of the physical dvd/case/printing and the postage ( just so it doesn't actually cost ME money to be able to provide this information to the community). Thats my goal at least.

As for timelines, I cannot say. I would love to have this done within a year, ideally sooner. I do have a big change coming up on the horizon, but like I mentioned the idea is that I will have more time for this stuff following that change.

Thanks guys.. keep commenting if you have any more ideas or suggestions

Anonymous said...

Hey Cam, how about a download option as well? That way you don't have worry about dealing with DVDs and so forth.

Hehe you can always ask Jason Schleifer for information about hosting. He's done it with his rigging course.

Unknown said...

My copy had better be free.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cameron, I'd like to see all the personal technical preferences and less (or none) of the planning, acting choices, getting into character stuff.
I'd prefer an action heavy scene.
"If I could get an animator to just sit down and explain something to me, what would it be?"
I would ask that animator (you) about more technical side of animation.
Do you usually block in stepped or splines ?
Do you work pose to pose or straight ahead ?
In blocking do you check your graph editor ?
When do you start really using the graph editor?
Any graph editor tips? (for finer overlap, drag etc. )

Angelo Lo Presti said...

Hey man, great to have you back.
I'd love to see a training dvd about acting choices. I think that one of he main difference between a good animator and an excellent one is the ability to select choices that feel natural and that feel "right" for the scene/mood/character/personality. So it'll be great to understand your thought process, how you select those choices and why.

Looking forward to seeing the training dvd.


Cyril said...

That will be my most anticipated DVD ever.I ve seen loads of those and I always expect so much and then they cut off most of the blood and guts like you said.
I would love to see your workflow,ideas you brainstorm and such.
So basically what I would love to see is you animating an action shot with two characters/creatures interaction.There could be some dialogue intro to it so that way you would create the most complete animation DVD ever,with physical action and acting and just show the way,the path,the process you go through to create that amazing animation we see in your reel:D
Great to see a new post from you mate:D

Geoff B said...

I think this is a great idea, and I look forward to seeing it. You have a really unique background and your change from straight-ahead to more blocking style is worth exploring, especially since your straight-ahead stuff was really amazing.

If I could make a few suggestions:
1. Would love to see a bit of your workspace, i.e. the physical/mental space you make for yourself as you work. Do you have inspiring things on the wall? Do you keep reference books nearby? Is your desk cluttered, or do you keep it completely bare?
2. You could probably ditch the discs entirely and make it available for download.
3. Why don't you plan to travel a bit to promote it? For instance, my school could bring you in, expenses paid, as a guest speaker and you could both talk about your experience and make a pitch for your video? I'm sure other schools on the East Coast (where we are) would be open to that. Kind of like a book tour on the cheap.

Daniel said...

If you do it for free at least put a "Donate" button somewhere so people can pay a fair amount if they so desire ;o

PrinceHabeeboo said...

thank you Cameron,
i would like to see
- how you come up with and how you 'record' your
ideas thru the early process
(the small poses/ details) and how you go thru
them to select and decide what to go for

- the middle part. the part you spend the most time
on. where you choose to put the most effort fine
tuning and why. difficulties, where time could be
wasted / spent inefficiently.

- later stage. what you care about the most
after a piece is done. where do you put your eyes
on when reviewing. did you ever face serious
changes at this stage? if it came from you
what triggered it? if it came from the director
what did you do to quickly adapt and apply?

yeah basically i want your brainwave recorded
on a harddrive.


Tom Mortimer said...

Hi Cameron
Good to hear that Johnny 5 is Alive!

Now let me see..Hmm...what would I like you to show me how to do?

1. It would be great to see how much detail you put into your block especially on a body mechanics heavy shot. Very keen to know what your blocking methodologies are.

2. Spline and polish tips. How to get some extra appeal into the motion. Graph editor and shelf scripts usage. Blood and guts sounds great.

3. Maybe an example of exaggerating some realistic creature motion. How you get your characters looking so alive and control their energy so well.

4. Any observations you may have made about the differences between mediocre and excellent acting choices. That you think are worth passing on.

Thanks for sharing can't wait see the outcome!

Unknown said...

Wow, this is a great idea.
Personally I would love to learn how much of your reference you take through to the final piece, I would also like to see how long you spend on blocking and the amount of detail you add at this stage, because I often find myself adding or tweaking things after splining. I will add more ideas as I think of them!!

Ryan Joseph said...

Thanks a lot Cameron ..:)

I would like to see the initial planning process before you start with the shot ,your thought process when you add stuffs into your shot to make it look appealing

Anonymous said...

I have no suggestions, but I will buy this DVD when you make it. You have a great way of helping the more heady stuff sink in.

Unknown said...

Hey Cameron and friends, check out the interview I did with super talented Mr Fielding.

Christoffer Andersen said...

Fantastic initiative!
How to generate ideas is good.
When I see video reference from REALLY good animators, it sometimes looks really bad - acting wise. If you compare it to film and tv. But the animation derived from it is super nice. What to look for in video reference (either self recorded or found online/library) and how to translate it into animation.

And then polish! nobody talks about polish :( makes me sad...

Sarah Hill said...

I fully agree with your idea...I teach and never have time to hang out and show each part in detail- so this sounds perfect! I'll buy it as soon as you are done:)

Bryn Richards said...

Hey Cam!

What an amazing idea! I would buy such a DVD in an instant!

The things I struggle with the most are pushing poses, really getting into the characters head and thought process and what to do with a character during the moments when they're not doing anything (long holds/idle animation).

Really looking forward to the DVD happening man, great work! :)

Unknown said...

You're a great inspiration Mr. Fielding.

Will be great to get you back to blogging once again.

On the topic of training DVD material, I'd definitely like to see you show/talk about all those mistakes and pitfalls we animators run into that makes us go "what the hell am I doing this for, I suck so badly !?"

The whole from planning to polish principle seems to work so great since you get to see most of the production behind a shot, what sort of thoughts you go through.

Can't wait and will definitely get this when you're done.

- Nicolai M.

Jacob said...

Hi Cameron,
I can't seem to find your scripts/plugins that were linked to
Would you be willing to upload these again? Or do you have new ones? I am really interested in your motion trail one.